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Do you need help deciding just which kind and type of beef to buy that will complement your menu?

With all the different types of marbling, grades, and labels of beef choices available, it can be confusing. For instance, the right type of beef marbling can literally mean the difference to the quality of the flavor. The type of quality beef grading can determine what recipe and cooking method will work the best, and the choice of Maturity Grading is a factor with budget considerations.

To help with some of these decisions, we have proved a concise and informative illustration below courtesy of Cargill Sterling Silver.

Moderately Abundant
• The minimum marbling degree necessary for average U.S. Prime
Slightly Abundant
• U.S. Prime must, at the minimum level, be representative of Slightly Abundant.
• The minimum Marbling necessary to qualify for U.S. Prime grade.
• The minimum marbling degree necessary for high U.S. Choice.
• The minimum marbling degree necessary for average U.S. Choice
• U.S. Choice must, at the minimum level, be representative of Small.
• The minimum marbling necessary to qualify for U.S. Choice grade.
• U.S. SELECT must, at the minimum level, be representative of Slight.
The above illustrations are reduced reproductions of the Official USDA Marbling Photographs prepared for the U.S. Department of Agriculture by and available from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.


Marbling Score Quality Grading Maturity Grade
{Increases from right to left}
    A B C D E
Slightly Abundant PRIME  
Modest CHOICE  
Slight SELECT  

Marbling Score – Those are the small flecks of fat that develop within the meat to give beef that rich, mouth-watering flavor we all crave. The more marbling the beef has, the more quality of taste it will offer.

Quality Grading –
Is based on a scale from the absolute premier quality offered (Prime), to the least of the cuts, such as with Standard.

Maturity Grading –
Involves the age at the time a beef animal is harvested. USDA Maturity Grades range from "A" being the youngest to "E" being the eldest age categories. (See additional information and chart below)

As the quality grade declines from Prime into the Standard grade levels the meat becomes less tender to the palate, changes in color from bright red to a more burgundy dark color, and the texture goes from a very fine to a more course "grainy" condition. Beef that reaches the USDA Grade of Standard, Commercial, and Utility are sometimes made more palatable by mechanically tenderizing or injecting with a solution to add flavor and/ or a tenderizing chemical.

The Cargill Sterling Silver Beef Program is USDA Certified to only select those Beef Carcasses in the Prime or Modest 0-Choice quality Grade, and only in the A & B category of maturity grading that insures a fine dining experience each and every time. Sterling Silver delivers not a "Good Steak" but a "Great Steak" time after time.

Maturity – The age of a beef animal has a direct effect on tenderness of the meat it produces. As cattle mature, their meat becomes progressively tougher. To account for the effects of the maturing process on beef tenderness, evaluations of carcass maturity are used in determining USDA Quality Grades. There are five maturity groupings, designated as A through E below.

Approximate ages corresponding to each maturity classification are:

• A - 9 to 30 Months
• B - 30 to 42 Months
• C - 42 to 72 Months
• D - 72 to 96 Months
• E - More Than 96 Months

Menu Selection – To achieve an optimum balance between the issue of quality and cost on the menu, we suggest purchasing the Prime to Modest Choice to please your customer’s pallet the best. You will obtain the most satisfactory results with these grades no matter if you sauté, barbeque, flame broil, or oven baste.

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